Vital technology produced at the South Jersey Technology Park could some day reduce the risk of death and disability after heart attack and stroke.
The CoolGuide Catheter, designed to rapidly cool the blood during emergency angioplasty, was invented by Dr. Thomas Merrill, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and CEO and co-founder of FocalCool LLC, a medical device startup located in the South Jersey Technology Park. This intervention would reduce cell death and tissue damage after a heart attack.
Based on this technology, Merrill and his team also developed a new device for stroke patients, which pumps cooled blood through a carotid artery to minimize brain damage.
“In the event of a heart attack or stroke, if blood flow is reduced, tissue damage occurs. Our goal is to reduce that tissue damage so that you stay alive and decrease the risk of disability after that event,” said Merrill, whose work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and Dr. Jay Yadav, founder and CEO of CardioMEMS Inc. in Atlanta.
The Technology Park provides Merrill with many resources. Merrill’s Rowan research team includes full-time engineers and student interns, including pre-med and mechanical engineering students. The site also offers state-of-the-art facilities. “We have an amazing lab that can afford us the opportunities to do whatever testing is necessary,” he said.
Such advances are critical. “Stroke is a leading cause of serious disability and the fourth leading cause of death. And heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States,” he said. Unfortunately, approximately 20 percent of first-time heart attack victims die within one year after the heart attack.
“These are massive health care problems, so even small improvements will impact many lives and save a lot of money,” he said.